It’s pretty much a requirement at every F1 race to concentrate. You need focus, and you need confidence. In order to have a good race, you need to put in a shift across each and every lap, because one lapse can ruin your afternoon.

Nowhere is this more true than Monaco.

Whereas the Spanish Grand Prix (among several others) has run-off areas that cost you time and only time, Monaco’s track has only barriers, waiting to punish you if you drift off the racing line or misjudge a corner. It’s the ultimate street track – a narrow circuit, a winding, bending track that features several uphill climbs and downhill turns. There’s not a lot room to overtake either – it is a huge test of man and machine for real F1 drivers, and winning this glamorous event is seen as completing one third of an epic trilogy of races (which also includes the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 hour race).

On F1 games, I dread Monaco. I usually wind up either crashing out, or winding up well down the order. To score points here on this F1 2009 career would mark a significant improvement on every other experience at this track, but I knew in order to achieve this, I would first need to put in some hard practise shifts.

MonteCarloI found the first sector to be reasonably straightforward. Turn 1 is approached at high speed, especially after the fast sprint down the track’s only true fast straight, and requires a sharp, hard application of the brakes. Turn 2 isn’t really even a turn in my book – you can hold a straight line through it without too much difficulty. Turn 3 doesn’t need an especially hard use of brakes, though I would tend to lift the throttle slightly here as well. Turn 4 is taken fairly quickly (if you want to get a good sector time), and then you hit the hard turn 5, which is immediately followed by a downward run to the famous Grand Hotel Hairpin.

Turn 7 is fairly slow, and Turn 8… well, you can take this one a little quicker than turn 7, but you need to be careful – the barriers will come up faster than you think (turn 8 is where Ayrton Senna famously hit the barriers at the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, having been dominating the race but pushing too hard to set the fastest lap).

Next is the famous Monaco tunnel.

MonacoTunnelThankfully on the game, the glaring light at the end of this tunnel is not an issue – for real F1 drivers, they need to not only be mindful of the upcoming chicane, but have to deal with the sudden burst of bright light as they exit the tunnel.

Turn 10 and the subsequent sequence of corners represent the areas I had the most trouble with. You have to brake early to take turn 10 right and get into good shape to exit the corner at a reasonable speed. In my early practise runs I would struggle with this a little. Turn 12 however, was the worst one for me. It looks like you need to approach it tighter than you actually need to – and as such, it was usually here that I’d hit the barrier and damage my car. After a few attempts, I came to realise what I actually needed to do, and set about putting in better laps.

Turns 13 and 14 are where you need to be brave. My gut feeling was to squeeze the brakes but you can go through them nearly flat out, before braking hard for turn 15.

The final couple of corners were a tad annoying. You’re coming out of turn 16 quite fast, and suddenly turn 17 is right there, a tight, slow right-hander, and you need to keep bearing right as anything else sees you hit the barrier. Turn 18 leads right into a small dink that is referred to as turn 19, and this caught me out a couple of times.

Then it’s back to the main straight and another sprint to turn 1.

So, how did my race go?

I won it.

Yup, I managed to win at Monaco!

I managed to qualify on pole, the result of some very quick clean laps (I think the AI was too conservative on braking at certain points, which gave me an advantage), and, despite losing the lead to Webber’s Red Bull for a couple of laps, I was able to bully my way past him and race into a comfy lead.

I did lose my nose cone at one stage, and also got a stop-go penalty for hitting another car (which in my view was their fault, not mine, but the AI is not forgiving), but despite this, I won the race by two laps from Vettel and Button.

Yes, you read that right, two laps.

monacoI dare say I would have won this race anyway (it was by far and away my most composed performance at Monaco), but the scale of the victory was inflated by what I suspect were problems for the AI cars. They pitted far more often than I did, and I can only think this is because A: they were pranging their own cars and requiring new front wings every five minutes, and B: penalties. The result was a crushing win for me, my first ever on this game at Monaco, and 10 points that saw me close to within 5 points of championship leader Button. After six races, I have had four podiums, two wins and two fifth places. This is far better than I’d imagined, but I know tough races lie ahead!

 

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So the season entered its European leg with the Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya. This track, like Bahrain, is crafted for speed, and I found it to be a great track to drive!

I was able to master the track quite quickly and began to post some pretty quick lap times, even on the hard tyre. There were no especially troubling corners (the tight turn 10 and the surprisingly quick turn 13, leading very quickly into a tight chicane, were a little tricky but also quite satisfying), and I managed to get my third pole of the season.

At the start of the race I lost out to Button, but was able to trail him quite closely, and I think it was around lap 3 (maybe 4) that I got by him.

Once in the lead I was able to push hard. I knew from practice how long both types of tyre could last and even on the hard tyre, I found myself opening up a good lead – so much so that I was able to pit and remain in the lead. On my two stints on soft tyres I was able to build up a very comfortable advantage, and even on my final stint on hard tyres, I was in control.

Yup, for the first time (with assists off), I managed to win a race!

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Was this the start of something wonderful?

So round four of my F1 2009 Wii Edition career was at the Bahrain International Circuit, and I wasn’t at all confident following practice and qualifying. China had been a race of good qualifying followed by going backwards. Bahrain was shaping up to be bad qualifying and a bad race.

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This is very a track made for speed. I had thought this would suit me but I was very, very wrong.

Turns 8 and 10 were the trickiest for me here – I would either run wide at those turns or be too cautious going into them, with the end result being plenty of lost time. I could only qualify in 16th (my worst qualifying of the season so far), and I suspected I would wind up with no points.

Instead, I was able to surge by several cars on the first corner, taking advantage of the AI’s tendency to be hard on braking (especially when close to other cars), and I got past some more across the opening lap. A generally controlled race saw me ultimately finish a very satisfying 3rd, which might have even been 2nd, but for a rear-left puncture, that scuppered that possibility.

Still, 6 points gained after a disastrous qualifying session was a result!

After mixed feelings following the Malaysian Grand Prix (disappointed  to need brake assist, pleased to come from 13th to 5th), I took on the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai.

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In practice I was generally able to go pretty fast and put in some very competitive lap times. I dare say I enjoyed this track, which featured some meaty corners and good straights to really put the hammer down. Turns 9 and 10 were a good test (9 being fairly slow but leading into a deceptively fast turn 10), and turn 16 is one you think you can attack quickly but you do need a healthy application of the brakes!

Qualifying went extremely well. I secured my 2nd pole of the season (a tad to my own surprise), but the race was not as great. I didn’t have a great start, and was somewhat clumsy on more than one occasion, running wide here and there. I also taxed my tyres too hard (especially my soft tyres) which hindered me considerably.

5th was the best I could achieve, which was a bit disappointing considering my qualifying performance. Still, three points-scoring finishes in three races was quite good!

So, onwards to the second part of my F1 2009 Wii edition career! Round two was at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia:

SepangThis was my first experience of a wet race – and I didn’t enjoy it! My practice sessions didn’t fare too well, but with a clear track ahead of me I was able to cope reasonably well.

The problems arose when other cars were on track.

My chief issue was with the spray. Being unable to see the cars ahead, and not being able to judge exactly where they were, meant going off track quite horribly or collisions. Combine this with problems at turns four, nine and 14, and things were set for a disaster!

I can’t recall exactly where I qualified, but it was no higher than 13th, a big difference from Melbourne (where I’d managed pole). With the race being a wet one, I struggled through the first few laps, and after a while I had no choice but to turn braking assists on.

You might think this was better for me overall, and in some respects it was (after all, I stayed on track!), but the assisted braking on this game is pretty conservative, leading to you braking earlier than you might otherwise be prepared to do, and it certainly makes it hard to out-brake other cars. I was able to fight my way to an eventual finish of 5th, and four valuable points, but I wasn’t pleased with myself. Not only did I not manage the race especially well, but I wasn’t able to complete the race with the assists turned off. I aimed for better things at the next race, in China.

BMWSAUBERSEPANG(art imitates life – the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix was indeed a wet one!)

So, after a year of exciting F1 action this season, we have come to a point where F1 is absent from our screens until next March! Argh!

In a bid to not go completely mad without my F1, I started a game on F1 2009 (Wii edition). Why 2009? Well, simply put, it’s the only F1 game I am any good at!

Though I usually have brake and steering assists very much on, this time around, I decided I would do things differently. This time, I would make a concerted effort to do this properly. This time, I am in charge of braking and have nothing to help me steer. I do have traction control and automatic gears turned on, because I am, frankly, not that brave.

I somehow managed to get through testing with BMW Sauber in a fast enough time to get a seat for them, and thus, my story begins:

BMWSAUBER(my car for the 2009 season)

Round 1 – Australia

I approached the first race at Melbourne, Australia, with a certain sense of trepidation. There are one or two corners (turn three in particular) that have often out-foxed me, even with the assists on, so I wasn’t sure how things would go. Practise sessions only served to highlight for me my problems with those corners, but I knew I had to plug away if I was to have any chance of a decent points finish.

When I got the lap right, I was quick, mixing it up with the Brawns and Red Bulls. Unfortunately, I did not usually get a clean lap in, and it took every last bit of focus I had to get through to the final round of qualifying (in fact, I surprised myself by managing that).

I astonished myself by getting pole.

Melbourne(turns 3, 9 and at times 13 and 15 were tricky corners for me)

Come the race, I lost places at the start, and found myself losing ground quite rapidly to Button, and I had to push hard to remain even remotely close to him. Unfortunately a couple of runs onto the grass cost me, and though I was able to fight my way into second by the end of the final pit stops, I wound up some 35 seconds behind winner Button. Still, given this was my first true attempt to play the game properly, I was quite pleased with second!

From here, it was on to Malaysia! See you soon for Part 2!

I am currently in the process of making some substantial additions to my Creationism page on the main site. The updates specifically tackle the attempt by pro-creationism debaters to make the discussions about the origins of life, rather than how life has evolved and developed.

It might seem like the two discussions are identical. Whilst they are superficially related, a debate about how life began is not the same as discussing how life has evolved.

Unless you’ve been a hermit for the past couple of years, you’ll be aware that a new Star Wars film is on the way. Recently it was named as The Force Awakens and today the first teaser trailer for this film was released:

It’s impossible to get major impressions of this film from one brief glimpse, though I would dare say my initial impressions are positive. The look of the ships is faithful to the original films and there’s the impression this is a ‘lived-in’ galaxy, rather than the more plastic-looking prequel trilogy.

There are some moments of intrigue. The villain (presumably villain) is walking through a dark forest with a unique new lightsaber design. Who is the guy in the Stormtrooper armour in the middle of a desert? Who is the girl on the landspeeder? Finally, how do we interpret this talk of the Force awakening?

The teaser has done its job – it has whetted the appetite. Now we just have to wait for more.

It would seem the scourge of Black Friday (traditionally a day when America goes nuts over every tiny deal) is now infecting my country. I cannot speak for everyone on this fair isle, but the UK could do without the hysterical scenes typically witnessed on Black Friday across the Pond.

We are normally above the sort of frenzied behaviour that is quite common in the US on this day. Sadly, as Black Friday becomes a bigger deal over here, it seems we are degenerating into the same sort of behaviour.

Why?! Are we just animals now, reduced to rabid creatures foaming at the mouth for things we probably don’t even truly need? Are we not a nation of more calm, considered and rational human beings?

Thankfully, where I work, I have not so far witnessed such mayhem. No one has been fighting in the aisles to get to the nearest deal. No one’s been wrestling with laptops. The fury that’s greeted some retailers has been astonishing.